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February 2010


Cultural Education Committee


Jeffrey W. Cannell


E Textbooks:  Tools for Improving Educational Efficiency and Achievement


January 27, 2010


Goal 4






Issue for Discussion

E textbooks in their most basic form are traditional printed textbooks available in the on-line environment. In their most expanded form, E textbooks are gateways to expanded informational and educational resources capable of providing text, image and sound in an interactive, interconnected, and ever changing way.

E textbooks face few of the challenges of traditional print textbooks, they:


  • cannot be “lost” on the way home from school or chewed by the dog;
  • require no inventorying and no physical storage space;
  • can be corrected immediately, changed and updated instantly to reflect new information or correct errors;
  • can be linked to other online resources including online books, multi-media, and other E Textbooks;
  • can be customized and be presented in forms, languages and styles to promote and facilitate use by the widest variety of users, including those for whom a traditional text presents handling and use problems;
  • can easily be transformed to audio or Braille formats for those with visual impairment;
  • can be made available to students, teachers, administrators and parents simultaneously.


E textbooks are most common in the higher education academic environment where “build your own” textbooks have been a common approach for years and present many opportunities for cost efficiency and self sufficiency. Challenges to the effective use of this format in the K-12 educational environment, focus primarily on the costs of providing students with computers or other reader devices and the accessibility and affordability of Internet/broadband access outside of the school premises.

This discussion is intended to look at the various ways in which E textbooks could be made widely available in an efficient and cost effective way. This would include planning for the delivery of a wide range of licensed commercial as well as open source textbook material for use by schools throughout the state. The funding possibility is the identification of potential cost savings in the shift from traditional, printed texts to online materials and will consider the expenses of ordering, storing, inventory and loss control which are costly aspects of the current system of print textbook use.

The discussion includes sustaining and strengthening textbook choice at the local level. E textbooks, offered from a statewide platform will make it easy for schools to see the full range of materials that are available, to discern what other schools are providing, and to begin to evaluate textbooks in some new ways. E textbooks, offered from a common, universally accessible, statewide platform, will reduce costs of acquisition and maintenance and will encourage more equitable distribution everywhere in the state. The added bonus of a direct connection to thousands of other online resources now available as part of the New York State Library’s NOVELny database translates into every E textbook including its own substantial online library. Open source, public broadcasting, museum, archives and student and teacher created curricular material can easily be a part of a robust system of E textbook delivery. Measurement of use of the E textbooks can serve not only as an evaluation of how they are used by students but also of how that use impacts student performance and achievement.


Reason(s) for Consideration


              For information and importance of leadership role for New York in the greatly evolving world of E textbooks.

Proposed Handling

Discussion leaders will be Jeffrey Cannell and Bernard Margolis. Larry Hirsch of the New York Comprehensive Center will present recent research on E textbooks.


Archived materials include the agenda and associated materials for each meeting, and a detailed summary posted at the conclusion of the meeting.